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Changes in Shallow Groundwater Quality Beneath Recently Urbanized Areas in the Memphis, Tennessee Area

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  • Paper No. JAWRA-11-0035-P of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA). This article is a U.S. Government work and is in the public domain in the USA. Discussions are open until six months from print publication.

(E-Mail/Barlow: jbarlow@usgs.gov)

Abstract

Barlow, Jeannie R.B., James A. Kingsbury, and Richard H. Coupe, 2012. Changes in Shallow Groundwater Quality Beneath Recently Urbanized Areas in the Memphis, Tennessee Area. Journal of the American Water Resources Association (JAWRA) 48(2): 336-354. DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-1688.2011.00616.x

Abstract:  Memphis, the largest city in the state of Tennessee, and its surrounding suburbs depend on a confined aquifer, the Memphis aquifer, for drinking water. Concern over the potential for downward movement of water from an overlying shallow aquifer to the underlying Memphis aquifer provided impetus for monitoring groundwater quality within the shallow aquifer. The occurrence of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), nitrate, and pesticides in samples from the shallow well network indicate a widespread affect on water quality from the overlying urban land use. Total pesticide concentration was generally higher in more recently recharged groundwater indicating that as the proportion of recent water increases, the occurrence of pesticides related to the current urban land use also increases. Groundwater samples with nitrate concentrations greater than 1.5 mg/l and detectable concentrations of the pesticides atrazine and simazine also had higher concentrations of chloroform, a VOC primarily associated with urban land use, than in other samples. The age of the water from these wells indicates that these concentrations are most likely not representative of past agricultural use, but of more recent urban use of these chemicals. Given that the median age of water represented by the shallow well network was 21 years, a lag time likely exists between changes in land use and the occurrence of constituents related to urbanization in shallow groundwater.

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